April 7, 2009

The Kinights Templar and the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin
Now we know the true story behind what was once a mystery and a field in which there have been all kinds of theories, conjectures and hypotheses. And this, thanks to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, which on Sunday published a preview of the forthcoming book, I templari e la sindone di Cristo, by Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives.

The Knights Templar, as it is well-known, had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure,” called Baphomet, but in reality the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud, that is the linen cloth which is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, and which is believed by many—myself included—to be the cloth placed on Jesus of Nazareth at the time of His burial.

The Shroud, as the Vatican’s medieval specialist explains in her book, had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century. Its fate in those years had always puzzled historians. But Barbara Frale’s study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light

a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.

The Knights Templar had rescued that linen cloth

to ensure that it did not fall into the hands of heretical groups such as the Cathars, who claimed that Christ did not have a true human body, only the appearance of a man, and could therefore not have died on the Cross and been resurrected.

Barabara Frale says her discovery vindicates an hypothesis first put forward by the British historian Ian Wilson in 1978, though at the time this theory was still to be proved.

This book gives the Knights Templar their due and restores the honor of the most powerful monastic military order of the Middle Ages.

In August 21st 2008, L’Osservatore Romano also published for the first time the prayer the Knights Templar composed when “unjustly imprisoned,” in which they appealed to the Virgin Mary to persuade “our enemies” to abandon “calumnies and lies” and revert to “truth and charity.” The prayer was further proof that the order was not heretical. In that article Barbara Frale maintained that it was untrue that the knights were guilty of “decadence, heresy and immoral practices,” that is the reasons why the order was suppressed in 1314, and its members were arrested, tortured and executed.